My good buddy Manish Vij, a connoisseur of all things Punjabi, points my attention via email to the video below from Miss World Punjaban 2008 that depicts the household work round.
When I saw this, my first reaction was one of WTF—but I reconsidered that after a little thought. There are different notions of what makes a woman desirable—some people value physical beauty and quick-wittedness, which leads us to the swimsuit and Q&A rounds of a regular beauty contest; and some would value more traditional attributes, like how well they can look after the kitchen—thus this round. Both reduce and demean women, but I don’t see why one is any more WTF than the other, per se.
Oddly, though, the rounds in this contest hark back not just to more ‘traditional’ values, but to an earlier age. In the household work round in the video above, you see a girl being tested for her skill on a chakki, not on, say, how well she can bake a dish in an oven. And in the beauty round here, one by one women contestants are asked what they do to maintain their looks, and one by one they speak about putting curd in their hair and besan on their skin—no one mentions using modern cosmetic products, which would obviously be considered an inappropriate answer. The judges smile after every answer, because surely even they know it’s a charade—just like all those chicks in Miss India contests claiming to idolise Mother Teresa.
PS: One of the contestants, I noted, was a girl named Pushpreet. Instantly I thought about what would happen if she was to marry a gent named, simply, Preet. On their wedding night he would go and sit besides her on the bed shyly. She would act all coy and all. He would edge close to her. And he would say, Oye, Pushpreet! And she would coyly push him. And he would blush and say again, Oye, Pushpreet! And she would push him again. And he would again go… ok, never mind, sorry.